Billebaude n ° 14



The remarkable diversity of forms and colors of living things has helped shape our imaginations and our arts. His songs have also inspired our musical compositions, yet our bias as visual primates generally makes us less sensitive to the richness of the sound worlds around us. By immersing oneself in the partitions of living things, this issue proposes to pay attention to the exchanges of vibrations and sounds - intra- but also interspecific - to communicate, to share territories, to reproduce ... From there, we could imagine other methods of communication with the living, to get along better?


Billebaude Collection

96 pages, 230 x 300 mm
Public price TTC France:

François Sommer Foundation

Anne de Malleray
Director of collection
Tel: 01 53 01 92 40

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Berlin, a still cool night in May. The streets are deserted. A few distant flashes dot the calm night: rare passers-by, rosy cheeks, continue their discussions on foot or by bicycle. Otherwise, not a cat. Not a car. But the night is far from silent: chants with complex modulations and rhythms resonate all around us, elated and tireless. We are silent, and the attention expands from being focused. We are captivated by this unexpected concert, which we believe played by dozens of birds, as the notes and sequences are so varied. Impossible to identify the source of these songs which delight us. 

In the fall, we are back to meet bio-acoustician Karl-Heinz Frommolt at the Tierstimmenarchiv of the Berlin Natural History Museum. Among the tens of thousands of animal sounds in the archive, he makes us listen to a recording of the nightingale which gringot, quiritte or trill. An impression of already heard grabs us. It's him ! This acoustic Proust madeleine transports us to this night in May. We then realize that it was probably the song of a single nightingale, or a few individuals, and not an orchestra of dozens of birds. The grateful memory of this spring joy is enriched by this a posteriori recognition - we now know here was here.

“Yesterday, in the evening, between the roses and the wine the nightingale sang joyfully: bring the cup. Oh ! all of you who are taken with wine, greetings to you ”, wrote the Persian poet Hafiz in the fourteenth century. In his Odes, the song of the nightingale is compared to the expressions of poets and musicians, and invites drunkenness. We like to find in the sound worlds of living harmonies that inspire our human music. Berlin is known for its nights filled with the song of nightingales, which musician David Rothenberg joins almost every year to play the clarinet with them. As attractive as the idea of ​​being able to play music with other species is, we have to admit that we will not know if they are actually playing. together. Is there a possibility of agreeing in a musical game, an exchange that one would like to be meaningful? A question also raised by jam sessions between spiders and musicians imagined by artist Tomás Saraceno.

Guided by humans who know how to pay attention to it - bioacousticians, musicians, oceanologists, hunters, artists, philosophers - this number invites us, like François Sarano immersed in the ocean, to listen to us. The cries of the queen bee, the barking of the deer, the clicks of the sperm whale, the “explosive” concert of the amphibians, the howl of the wolf run through this number. With them, we seek to deploy the variations and the diversity of the functions attributed to cries, songs and other means of sound communication in living beings.

What can we understand about these sound worlds foreign to our own, and can we understand each other? We can imitate animals by whistling, like the eagle hunters of Rondônia, trying to learn the intricacies of their language, tinkering with tools and inventing translation modes to forge sound links. Invisible, they can arouse forms of joy like the one communicated by the young ornithologist Quentin Hallet when he teaches us to detect the presence of birds hidden at the top of an Ardennes forest. The one also witnessed by the artist Knud Viktor, explorer of the tiny sounds of the Luberon, the day he manages to record the snoring of a rabbit in its burrow. According to the philosopher Vinciane Despret, the listening experience can defamiliarize us from our usual relationships, mainly visual, to living beings. It may be necessary to start by being silent so that the world around suddenly becomes much less silent and reanimates ... In an Andersen tale, the song of the little nightingale saves the emperor of China at the last minute. of Death, come to take it. “The blood was circulating faster and faster in the weakened limbs of the dying man and Death herself listened and said: 'Go on, little nightingale, go on!' "







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